Doubters, Believers, Seekers in Literature and Film
MATTHIAS UECKER - Belief, Ritual and Identity: Performances of Jewishness in Contemporary German Cinema 25
MATTHIAS UECKER Belief, Ritual and Identity: Performances of Jewishness in Contemporary German Cinema Jewishness – or rather: Jewish identity and culture and their relationship with mainstream German culture and history – have become a source of remarkable fascination in post-unification Germany. After almost forty years of cultural development in which Jews were either ignored or sidelined,1 the new cultural situation which emerged after 1989 provided a much more prominent position for the portrayal, analysis, and celebration of Jewish life in Germany. Jews came to be regarded as one of the minorities whose exist- ence was crucial for the emergence of a new German ‘normality’.2 As Stuart Taberner has shown, much of the resulting material is primarily concerned with the place of the Holocaust in a new, ‘normalised’ narrative of German history and attempts to draw either on nostalgia for the hybridity of Weimar culture and the crucial role of Jewish artists and intellectuals in its formation, or to reconnect with nineteenth-century assimilationism in which German Jews aspired for complete absorption into classical German culture.3 The products of this discourse are invariably ‘philo-Semitic’, highly sentimental, and primarily concerned with the stabilisation of a new German identity. 1 For an overview of the portrayal of Jewish characters in West German literature and drama cf. Pol O’Dochartaigh (ed.), Jews in German Literature since 1945: German-Jewish Literature? German Monitor 53 (2000). 2 On post-unification ‘normalisation’ debates cf. Stuart Taberner and Frank Finlay (eds), Recasting German Identity. Culture, Politics and Literature in the Berlin Republic (Rochester,...
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